By: Karianne Johnsen & Julia Sprowls
With today being our last full day in London, International Wit sat down to reflect upon our overall travel experience and the final research findings we’ve compiled throughout the semester. We wanted to share our final takeaways on how humor is perceived in different cultures and how it is used in advertising and public relation campaigns and strategies in the United States compared to the United Kingdom and Ireland.
As a recap from the professional interviews we conducted in Ohio, we found the ways humor is used depends heavily on the client and the overall tone of their product or service. We analyzed various campaigns and saw there were several similarities in the way humor was used to create an emotional connection between the brand and its audience. However, we found that sometimes humor can be interpreted wrong based on cultural meaning. In short, do your research beforehand!
Fast forward to our week in Dublin, we were able to collect research that supported the information we already found! Our team attended a free comedy show in Ireland called “Comedy Crunch” at Stag’s Head pub. The opening acts were Irish and British, and the headliner, Michael Harrison, was Canadian. Each of the five stand-up comedians made jokes about the Americans in the crowd and Americans in general.
We listened to each comedian make fun of themselves as well as other races and ethnicities they knew were in the crowd. The jokes made during the show confirmed our primary research we compiled about the Irish having dry humor. One comedian named Teresa Coyne told us she is continually working on creating smooth segues and transitions between jokes because of the different cultures in the audience. In fact, Coyne said she had to watch American television shows to understand and learn our humor better. Through her professional experience in comedy, she told us she sees Irish comedians build up to the joke, whereas American and Canadians comedians get right to the point quickly.
After a ferry ride across the Irish Sea and two train rides through the countryside of Wales and England, we found ourselves finally in London for the last week of our class. After visiting an advertising agency called Mindshare UK, we met with Jed Hallam, the head of digital strategy. Hallam told us after his presentation that “A global client doesn’t mean it has to be a global advertising campaign,” when it comes to how Mindshare positions client campaigns with some key global brands. He emphasized the importance of “needling in” on the specific target you’re trying to reach through humor. This additionally added to our collected research and quotes.
Our class had the privilege of meeting with several major brand’s marketing teams in England. Kate Rock, Goodyear’s Consumer and Brand PR manager, told us how the company positions the Brands Goodyear and Dunlop differently for its different audiences. Additionally, she told us those different campaigns are also different than those launched in the United States. Cadbury was the other major corporation we had the pleasure of visiting with and hearing about its marketing efforts. Curtis Allen, Cadbury’s Marketing Educator, showed us several humorous advertisements they use for the brand in the U.K. He was shocked when we said we had never seen some of them. Humor and off-the-wall ads are Cadbury’s advertising style, but it is used differently between countries, following the pattern we’ve been seeing all semester. A key takeaway we learned from Cadbury was non-essential brands, such as snack foods, do well with using humor in their advertisements and campaigns.
With one full day left in the United Kingdom, we’re spending on time reflecting on our hard work that we produced throughout the semester. Overall, it’s extremely important to research your target audience and the cultural norms in any country a client wants to have a campaign present in. Humor is interpreted differently in all countries and needs to be tested to make sure it translates correctly. Things as simple as colors and images can mean totally different things in different cultures. But, humor can always create a connection between the brand and the consumer, and that’s why it is consistently used in all cultures.
Thank you to everyone who has followed our journey throughout the past five months! Being a part of International Wit has been an educational and eye-opening experience for our team members as we researched practices in our own industries. Make sure to check out the music video we created of our time abroad. We promise you’ll have the song stuck in our head for weeks to come as we have.